The Wife is the story of Joan Castleman (Glenn Close), a woman who is accompanying her husband Joe (Jonathan Pryce) to accept his recently bestowed Nobel Prize in Sweden. Joe has won the award for his achievements in literature over the course of a prestigious career. As the two continually deal with the exhaustion of the press tour, Joan reflects upon her own personal journey of being with Joe and how the highs and lows of their relationship echo even louder in the modern era.
What works in The Wife is Glenn Close. With an already-illustrious career, Close creates a complex character that the audience slowly gets to know more and more as the minutes tick by. Joan’s motivations, at first, may seem curious or downright surprising. She often has sudden changes in mood, appearing odd and awkward. However, through flashbacks, the audience receives additional context, and Joan’s actions and responses reveal themselves as pitch-perfect. Close is the clearly in the driver’s seat as she carefully navigates emotions and conflict with the precision of a surgeon. Every side-eyed glance, smirk, and syllable has purposeful meaning that Close uses powerfully to create Joan in a robust manner.
While The Wife boasts a remarkable performance from Close, viewers should be aware that the narrative centers on mostly deplorable individuals continually making poor decisions. Joe, for example, is a textbook manipulative narcissist whom audiences will only hate more and more as the film unfolds. Their son David (Max Irons), comes across as a bit self-entitled, a bit ungrateful, and a bit jaded. Finally, the self-aggrandizing stalker-like journalist novelist Nathaniel (Christian Slater) completes the trifecta of unlikeable characters.
The Wife should be categorized as a horror movie. The psychological damage inflicted upon the heroine is gut-wrenching and awful. Much like the final-girl thrillers of old, audiences are likely going to be screaming at the screen for Joan to just run away and stop making bad choices in times of heightened tension. This is by no means a criticism of the film but understanding the underlying tones and messages will likely help people decide if they will enjoy the experience of watching The Wife unwrap its mysteries.
The Wife is worth a watch for Glenn Close alone, and her prowess will likely garner her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. The material itself is a bit uncomfortable at times, but this was likely the intention of director Björn Runge.
Recommended if you liked: Big Eyes, Blue Jasmine
FINAL GRADE: B+
Probable Academy Award Nominations:
- Best Actress in a Leading Role: Glenn Close